Wednesday, November 12, 2014

PDF's into Google Sites

Over the last couple of weeks I have had more than a handful of teachers ask how they can insert PDF's into their classroom websites. To be perfectly honest I do not have much experience working with PDF's so I did some research and I want to share what I have found. If you have a file that you would like to upload into your classroom site without losing the formatting then converting it to a PDF might be a good option. Some teachers have found that when they try to convert some of their Word documents to Google Docs that some weird formatting things happen. When she saved the file as a PDF she was able to upload it into Drive without losing the formatting. You can convert different file types to PDF's including slides. To get the PDF into your class Google Site takes one extra step, but it is pretty simple. After you create the PDF you will need to upload it into Google Drive. Change the settings on the PDF so that anyone with the link can view it. Copy the link to the PDF then open your Site and go to the page where you want to embed your PDF. You can create a new page if you wish. Go into edit mode then select Insert -----> More gadgets ------> Include Gadgets (iframe). Once you select the iframe gadget a box will appear. Paste the link to the PDF that you should have copied into the box. I recommend setting the width at 100 percent. Adjust the other settings if you like then save. Your PDF should appear on your page.

This would be an easy way for students to share different projects with you as well. If they were to create a trifold brochure using LucidPress or a diagram using LucidChart they could either share it with you through Drive or hyperlink it on a document that is editable by students that is shared on your Site. This might sound complicated but it is actually quite simple to set up and it is MUCH easier than sorting through 150 emails! 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Gmail 101

Teachers in my district have been using Gmail for almost a year. The switch from Outlook was welcomed by some and dreaded by others. I get that. Change is difficult, especially when we are crunched for time. When I planned workshops for this year one of the things I knew I needed to teach was Gmail. 

I put together this slideshow to help teachers as they being to make sense of Gmail. I had a Gmail account for years before it ever occurred to me that I could customize and make it work for me. Of course I changed the theme to make my inbox more attractive, but that was merely a superficial change. The true magic began to happen when I realized how to make Gmail work for me. 

My hope is that each teacher in my district will take the time to explore Gmail so they can really get a grasp on all of its wonderful features. I only have about 45 minutes with them to show them the features which is not even close to enough time! I wish I could take all of the credit for this presentation, but the amazing Amy Mayer is the one who created and shared the fabulous tutorials which I have included. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Meet Josh Stumpenhorst

Where are you from and what do you do?
I am from Oswego, IL and teach 6th graders to love reading, writing and history as an ELA and Social Science teacher. In addition, I am a basketball coach, track coach, athletic director and academic team leader. (Josh is also a former Illinois Teacher of the Year)

How are you connected to Beth?
I first connected with Beth via twitter a few years ago. We connected prior to an ISTE conference where she helped me get connected with other educators as I was a bit of a social media novice at that time. We have since worked together on other things including presenting together on a panel at ISTE.

How did you get involved in educational technology?
I see my involvement in educational technology as simply a natural extension of my role as a teacher. To me, technology is a series of tools and resources that allow me to do my job in a more effective manner. Early on in my career I sought out ways in which to use technology to engage my students in meaningful work beyond just use for the sake of use.

How has being a networked educator impacted your life?
Being a connected educator has changed my life in profound ways. I recently wrote about this for Corwin.

What is some advice you can give to teachers about how to start finding resources and building their own PLN.
This is a huge question and not a simple answer. To start the obvious first step is to get online and create accounts in these spaces. From there, reach out to other educators doing similar work to you and connect with them. I always suggest newbies use twitter and hashtags to find folks worth connecting with through that manner. For me, I started following the #SSchat on twitter and found lots of great Social Science teachers to connect with and learn from.

What is a tool that has captured your attention at the moment? What do you like about this tool?
The tool I have become quite fond of in recent years is KidBlog which allows my students to share content with a global audience. While this is not a new tool it has been new for me and I find it incredibly powerful as a way to create authentic audiences for students.

What is one piece of advice that you can give to educators who are just getting started with integrating technology into their classrooms?
The best advice I have is to stop and think before using any technology in your classroom. Is the technology going to allow you or your students to do something they can’t do without it? Will the use of technology improve the learning or simple be a distraction or a replacement for something already going on? The answers to those questions I find critically important to the way in which technology is used in schools in appropriate ways.
What are some things you hope to accomplish professionally in the next year or two?
Surviving common core and the new standardized assessments might be high on my list of accomplishments in the next year or two. :) Beyond that I hope to finish my first book with Corwin Press for teachers looking to start a revolution of ideas and practice within their classrooms. As always my goals are always to stay relevant and evolve my practice to best meet the individual needs of my students.